Mister Smiley

Nobody in Tel Aviv University believed that in this day and age, someone could be happy. The campus queen wanted to know if maybe I had some secret “upper”…

5 min

Rabbi Shalom Arush

Posted on 10.08.2010

Rabbi Shalom Arush’s story of teshuva and faith, Part 4

 

 
Last week, we left off Hashem doing amazing miracles – on order – for Shalom. But, his serpent of doubt was far from slaughtered…
 

No One to Turn To

 
Despite my brother’s visit and my success in the economics finals, I still wanted more proof.
 
Final exams, the Yom Kippur War, and the death of my friends had taken such an emotional toll on me that my body was now starting to kick. A few beers with the buddies at a local pub or dreamy date with a campus queen weren’t enough to sooth my obviously wounded and starving soul. I had developed excruciating headaches that felt like iron spikes cracking my skull and splitting my brain. They were unbearable and incapacitating. I spent two weeks going from one expert neurologist to the other. Nobody knew what was wrong with me. No pill was giving me any relief.
 
It finally occurred to me to turn to God. “Dear God, I sorely want to believe in You. I don’t want to doubt You. I’m now in a position where no doctor has answers; no one has a solution to my problem. The pills don’t rid me of the pain. Please God, I know that I’m not deserving of yet another miracle, but please help me strengthen my emuna, my pure and complete faith in You. If these headaches leave me soon without any outside treatments, I’ll know it’s You and You alone who’s curing me. Please rid me of these terrible headaches.”
 
The next morning, I woke up like a new person, with no more head pain.
 
There it was, God 3 – Doubts 0. The score was a clear and dazzling victory for The Lord. My evil inclination could no longer claim coincidence or happenstance. I had a lot to improve on, but I certainly wasn’t naïve or gullible. This was for real. God had the ever-loving patience to make Himself known to me three times in a row.
 
My soul was now feeling the illumination of emuna, with no connection at all to “religion.’ I was tasting the sweet fruits from the garden of emuna, the benefits of having my own one-on-one personal and intimate relationship with God. From here on in, I began to talk to Him every day for at least an hour. I’d speak to Him all day long too. And guess what – I’d get responses!
 

The Toothache

 
At this point, I was talking to God everyday and virtually all day long. Again, I wasn’t yet religious at all, but that didn’t stop me from building a great relationship with Him. I’d share everything with Him including my innermost thoughts. I’d talk to Him like you’d talk to a best friend or to the kindest, most benevolent grandparent in the universe. I was tasting happiness.
 
Today, people know me for my smile. That’s my trademark, like Popeye’s spinach. I wasn’t born with that smile; here’s how I developed it:
 
Shortly before I left university to attend rabbinical seminary, I suddenly came down with an excruciating toothache, the type that makes a person regret the day that they were born. Somehow, I maintained my self-composure and calculated the time I’d lose searching for a dentist that could treat me right away. I figured that I’d need at least three hours to locate a clinic and get treated. “OK, Lord,” I said turning straight to Him as I was more and more doing lately, “I understand that I must lose some of my time. Rather than waste it looking for a dental clinic that might or might treat me and might or might not solve my dental problem, I’m going to spend the same time with You.”
 
I spoke to God for three hours straight. I realized that God in His role of Creator initiates everything on earth, including my toothache. Since I had previously established in my mind that He is a loving Father, then I had to conclude that my toothache was a gift from Him. And since I wouldn’t do anything without a purpose – and I’m certainly not smarter than God is – I knew that He was giving me the toothache for a purpose.
 
So what was the purpose of the toothache? I asked, hoping that He’d give me an answer.
 
He did.
 
I realized that I had been happier in the last few weeks than I ever had been. Yet, I wasn’t particularly smiling to other people. If I would have been smiling to others, and they found out why I was so happy, maybe they’d seek their own connection with God. Yes, that’s what God wants from me! My perpetual smile – no matter what – would be a great endorsement for emuna that would be! Sure, my toothache was a message that I need to smile!
 
My jaw still felt like a pneumatic sidewalk-busting drill was working on it, but I stood in front of the mirror and forced myself to smile.
 
No, that’s not wide enough…
 
Show more teeth…
 
Be sincere!
 
Thirty minutes later, I had no more toothache.
 

Mister Smiley

 
I became the Mister Smiley of the Tel Aviv University campus. People were asking me what I was so happy about. My answer – there’s a God who loves us – led many to think that I had lost it. But, I didn’t keep God to myself. I shared Him with others, even though I was still in my spiritual diapers.
 
One day, one of the most popular girls on campus stopped me. “Your smile is gorgeous,” she said. “Tell me, what do you take?” Nobody believed that in this day and age, someone could be truly happy. She wanted to know if maybe I had some secret “upper” or some other jolly-causing substance that she didn’t know about. “C’mon,” she prodded. “Don’t keep good secrets to yourself.”
 
“I don’t take anything!” I answered. She refused to believe me. “The good secret is ‘emuna.’ You don’t need an analyst and you don’t need a prescription. You can speak to God all you like without paying $175 for a forty-five minute session.”
 
She walked away. Like they say, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. Little did the young lady realize that she was walking away from true happiness and inner peace. What a shame.
 

The Light of Emuna

 
I didn’t yet call my conversations with God “prayers”, but that’s what they were. I began requesting all kinds of things. I’d get into the car and say, “Father in Heaven, there are a lot of dangerous drivers on the road. Please help me arrive safely at my destination.” I’d thank Him for my food after eating and I’d ask Him to wake me up at a certain time in the morning. He did – right on the requested minute. I’d thank Him for another day alive. Like Abraham our forefather, I began observing the Torah before I knew what was written in it – these things came to me naturally, from an inner desire. Even though I wasn’t formally observant, I was speaking to Him all the time.
 
Way before I became a Rabbinical student and subsequent rabbi and spiritual guide, God illuminated my heart with the light of emuna. Only after I realized from my own observation that He alone runs the world, does everything for the best, and does everything for a purpose, did I learn that these are actually the three principles of emuna, which you can learn about in The Garden of Emuna.
 
God is ever so accessible to every one of us. Emuna is the key to inner peace, happiness, and wellbeing. Emuna is critical in every stage of our lives, from the mundane occurrences to the milestone events. It’s our job to spread it around the globe. To do so, I need your help. G-d bless always!

next article

I put my evil inclination to the test too and looked for a rationale to the life-and-death cycle outside the context of God and emuna. I found nothing…

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